I haven't heard anythign about my stimulus yet, though I'm still working so I'm not worried about it. I don't plan on blowing it all though, since stuff will still not be normal for quite a while. I'll probably buy a couple cheap things at most. Hopefully I never need it and it'll be my Series X fund.
The campaign in Gears was very off-putting. Making 2/3 of the game open world made me feel like I was missing out on so much of the story if I didnt scour every nook & cranny of the game world. Felt like a cheap way to extend the game and just didnt feel like Gears. Plus, the major part of the story that happened just before the end. I did NOT like that. Turning Gears into an rpg lite game, wtf.
I can see how it could seem that way but the exploration stuff doesn't really lead to a lot of story content. Usually it's just "Shit, there are Swarm/Locust/DeeBees here!" in the locations you find. The main incentive to explore are Jack Upgrades and finding the secret relic weapons. I've said it before but the big open levels in 5 really felt like Halo 1 (and 3) cranked up, where you can explore these big levels at your own pace and in whatever order you want.
I really don't get the RPG lite comparisons I've seen, even before your mention here. There is one real choice in the game, and an upgrade tree for Jack.